Saturday, June 25, 2005

[Iran] Poverty key to who'll rule in Iran

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The votes of the oppressed may push a hardliner into the presidency, writes Anthony Loyd
June 25, 2005
IF not darkness and light, then the choice facing Iran's liberal voters overnight was at least between dusk and night, as the nation went to the polls to elect a new president.

Yet whatever the gripes of critics about the democratic value of the vote, by today the country will know which of two choices its millions of voters have made.

In one corner stands Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, 70, the former president, who espouses privatisation, cautious liberal reforms, negotiations over the nuclear program and overtures to the US.

In the other corner is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 49, the Mayor of Tehran and the soldier-son of a blacksmith, who advocates state-control of the economy with subsidies and handouts, a reverse of cultural reforms, the continuation of uranium enrichment and a stand-off with the US.

It was the powerful showing of Mr Ahmadinejad, who is a hardline conservative, in the first round last week that dominated the run-up to last night's polls and sent shivers down the spine of his adversaries.

His campaign video is a masterful work of polemical imagery that has shot straight to the heart of the mostazafan -- the oppressed.

They are Iran's workers, the poor and disaffected, those sick of corruption and the class divide, and he has captured their imaginations and votes.

The camera lingers on the residence of the previous mayor of Tehran, a tenure taken by Mr Ahmadinejad in 2003. Chandeliers drip from the high ceilings above marble floors, gilt bannisters lead the viewer through a spacious opulence of power, never experienced by Iran's shopkeepers and labourers, on towards the swimming pool, into the gym, the sauna and then the timbre suddenly changes.

A poignant violin is heard as we see the Ahmadinejad mayoral residence: a modest suburban-style home, sparse of furniture, his telephone lying on the carpet upon which he sits to do business. "Vote for me," says the subtext of the commercial. "I'll not spend your money on trappings you will never enjoy. I'm just like you. Trust me."

"Ahmadinejad has suffered in life," says Orash Farahani, a 29-year-old worker in a Tehrani electrical goods store, who will be giving the city's Mayor his vote. "He has feeling for those who are hungry and poor.

"He'll bring social justice to this country. The revolution was fought for the mostazafan, but now we are forgotten again as the rich take over."

Confidence in the predicted easy win for the favourite, Mr Rafsanjani, was shattered last week during the initial round of voting, when Mr Ahmadinejad, who is the bete noire of the international community, Iran's liberals and its business sector, rose from nowhere to a robust second place, just 1.5 per cent behind his rival.

His vote reflects not so much support for his religious conservatism or his foreign policy, but for his social status and honesty.

Iran's burgeoning working class sees little reward from Iran's oil assets, which are currently selling at $US59 a barrel.

The money disappears into a sump of corruption and mismanagement, opening a huge social schism between the small urban elite and the majority poor.

"The imbalance between upper and lower classes was one of the issues the revolution was supposed to resolve. Twenty-six years later it is still there," says the International Crisis Group's representative in Tehran, Karim Sadjadpour.

More than a third of voters did not cast a ballot in the first round of the election and it is unclear whether they will be moved to back Mr Rafsanjani in the second round.

Most are believed to be reform-minded and disillusioned by the failure of outgoing President Mohammed Khatami to bring them the freedom they desire.

The Times

Friday, June 24, 2005

[Live 8] Geldof urges G8 to stamp out poverty

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By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - Charity rocker Bob Geldof's star-studded concerts are aimed at pressuring world leaders into eradicating African poverty.

Twenty years after the Live Aid sensation, the man dubbed "Saint Bob" for organizing the 1985 concert to save the starving in Ethiopia wants to influence the G8 group of industrialized nations which meets in Scotland in July.

"Here we are again," Geldof told a news conference in London, adding that he hoped to use Live 8 concerts "to tilt the world a little bit on in its axis in favor of the poor."

"We don't want your money, we want you, because every few seconds a child dies needlessly of extreme poverty," the Irish singer added.

"Eight world leaders in one room in Scotland on the 8th of July can save millions and millions of lives, but they'll only do it if enough people tell them to."

Seven free concerts will be held on July 2 in London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Philadelphia, Tokyo and Barrie, north of Toronto.

The stars due to appear at the London show include Mariah Carey, Coldplay, Elton John, Madonna, Paul McCartney, REM, Scissor Sisters, Sting, Robbie Williams and U2.

Acts confirmed in Philadelphia include Bon Jovi, Maroon 5, P. Diddy, Stevie Wonder and actor Will Smith.

The concerts will coincide with a rally in Edinburgh organized by Make Poverty History, an umbrella group campaigning to cancel poor nations' debt and boost aid that plans to form a human chain around the Scottish city to raise awareness.

Live 8 organizers are hoping for one million spectators at the July 2 gigs and up to two billion viewers around the world.

Philadelphia officials said Live 8 and a separate Elton John AIDS concert on July 4 could attract up to three million people in the city alone.

"I don't think it will be a logistical problem for us," Mayor John Street told reporters in Philadelphia.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has lobbied to help Africa during Britain's presidency of the G8 this year and will host G8 leaders at a summit in Gleneagles in Scotland from July 6-8.

But campaigners fear discord between G8 nations on debt reduction and aid, combined with reluctance in Washington, will wreck Blair's ambitions.

Blair will discuss a range of issues including Africa during talks with President Bush in Washington next week, a spokesman for his office said.

Campaigners also warn that African schools and hospitals could receive no new money from the G8 summit, which could cost as much as 100 million pounds ($180 million) to stage.

"We are really concerned that we're a long, long way away from any kind of breakthrough on tackling poverty in Africa," said Oxfam policy adviser Max Lawson.

Elton John, who has his own AIDS charity, said the latest initiative would mean more to him than Live Aid.

"I went to Africa in January and saw the situation for myself there, and saw the ignorance and stigma that people are fighting against," he said.

"He's (Geldof) encouraged ... musicians to really think about what they should be doing instead of playing and just driving around in flashy cars." (Additional reporting by Jon Hurdle in Philadelphia and Jeremy Lovell and Madeline Chambers in London)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

[Australia] Report calls for probe into student poverty

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A Senate report on student income support has recommended the Government consider changes to payments and eligibility criteria.

The committee says the issue of student poverty needs further investigation, although government senators disagreed with more than half the recommendations.

Labor Senator Trish Crossin says the committee heard evidence of students resorting to prostitution to pay for food.

She says the Government could immediately act to help students by indexing student income and exempting scholarships from income tests.

"There is a view here that students are embarking on a one-way road of user pays, and that if you want to go to university you try and survive and struggle to eat and live anyway that you can," she said.

"What this report is actually saying to the Government, it's a red light flashing really, and alerting the Government that this is an area of public policy that is seriously under-resourced and needs addressing."

The Australian Democrats have accused the major parties of failing to do enough to alleviate student poverty.

Democrats Senator Natasha Stott Despoja says 60 per cent of students are living below the poverty line.

She says payments have not kept pace with the cost of living and the eligibility criteria need serious reform.

"The Government has been missing in action on the issue of student income support for many years, and as a result it is exacerbating the skills shortage issue," she said.

"But we are also looking towards the future where you will have not only debt ridden generations of students, but students who decide it's too difficult to enter into or participate in higher education."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

[G8] Protests will fail in fight to cut poverty, says survey

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THE vast majority of people do not believe massive G8 demonstrations in Edinburgh and Gleneagles will have a significant effect on tackling poverty in Africa, according to a new survey.

More than 200,000 people are expected to take part in the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh on July 2, making it Scotland's biggest ever demonstration.

But only six per cent of people questioned in the You Gov poll for Sky News believed the demonstrations, aimed at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, would make a significant difference.

The Live 8 concerts, organised by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure and planned for Edinburgh, London and cities round the world, were seen as only slightly more effective, with four out of five saying they didn't think they would make a difference.

The most important factor to ending poverty in Africa was seen as African governments, with nearly three-quarters of people saying their decisions have the biggest impact on the continent's economy and standard of living.

Almost half of the people questioned said international investment by companies or decisions by the G8 group of leading nations held the key to a better future for Africa.

More than 2000 people took part in the poll.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

[New Zealand] Brash stance on child poverty concerning - lobby group

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Child protection groups and Labour MP Steve Maharey are attacking National leader Don Brash over comments he made that child poverty could rise under his leadership.

Every Child Counts - a coalition including Barnardos, Plunket, Save the Children, Unicef NZ and AUT's Institute of Public Policy - said Dr Brash's remarks yesterday were disturbing.

Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said the comments showed how far National was willing to go to cut taxes.

Dr Brash, speaking on National Radio about possible tax cuts under his party, said that he could not guarantee that child poverty or food bank queues would not rise under National, but believed its policies would lead all New Zealanders into greater wealth.

"This election is a choice between two different philosophies - do you leave money with the people who earn it, or do you take it off them and hand it around," he said.

"The best way of dealing with child poverty, the best way of dealing with food banks is to get people into jobs. To deal with welfare reform, to get welfare rorts out of the system that's the most effective way of dealing with it."

Every Child Counts spokesman Murray Edridge said Dr Brash believed child poverty fluctuated over time but the group wanted him to commit to ending it.

The UNICEF report, Child Poverty in Rich Nations 2005, published earlier this year, ranked New Zealand fourth worst of 24 countries with a rate of 16.3 per cent on the scale used, Mr Edridge said.

Denmark, at the top of the table, only had a child poverty rate of 2.4 per cent.

The report showed many OECD countries appeared to have the potential to reduce child poverty below ten per cent without a significant increase in overall spending.

Mr Edridge said child poverty was seen as an unimportant by-product of economic policy in the past but countries like Denmark showed treating its elimination as a goal worked.

"Dr Brash's remarks about the impact of his proposed tax cuts on children are the sort of political attitude that Every Child Counts argues needs to change if we are to have a worthwhile future."

Child poverty had flow-on effects ranging from educational under-achievement to long-term welfare dependence.

"All of this takes a toll on our society and economy. Child poverty can't be ignored."

Mr Maharey said the comments showed National was out of touch.

"This is an astonishing statement to be making, when virtually every other government and major political party in the OECD has made a public commitment to reduce or eliminate child poverty," he said.

The Government rejected that child poverty was cyclical and Mr Maharey said it had declined significantly in recent years.

He attributed the improvement to Government policies rebuilding social services.

Dr Brash today told NZPA Mr Maharey was taking his comments out of context.

National was committed to reducing poverty in the long-term, but no one could rule out small fluctuations in the short term.

Unemployment had recently hit record lows of 3.6 per cent, but had since climbed slightly to 3.9 per cent, meaning several thousand people were out of a job and worse off.

That did not mean that in the medium to long-term it would not fall below 3.6 per cent again.

Other social indicators followed similar patterns, he said.

National was committed to getting more people into jobs, with a target of reducing welfare beneficiaries from 300,000 to 200,000 within 10 years.

That was the best way to increase people's wealth and move them out of poverty, he said.

White House at odds with rest of G-8 on Africa aid

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By Mark Silva, Washington Bureau. Tribune foreign correspondent Tom Hundley contributed to this report from London
Published June 21, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Though leading industrial nations plan to extend Africa a dramatic helping hand at a world summit next month, the United States already is at odds with other members of the club over just how generous that new aid should be.

The Bush administration's reluctance to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair's challenge of doubling aid to Africa has created friction in a relationship crucial for Bush. The president has counted on Blair's support in the war in Iraq but stops short on a goal Blair has set as a priority and a matter of his legacy--fighting poverty in Africa.

As other European nations have signed on to Blair's pledge of a doubling aid to the continent, Blair has professed satisfaction with Bush's commitment to a far less ambitious plan of debt relief for the poorest African nations. Yet Bush's stance will leave him vulnerable to some high-stakes lobbying as the leaders of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations assemble July 6-8 in the picturesque hills of Perthshire in northern Scotland and demonstrators mass in nearby Edinburgh to rally for African aid.

"Debt cancellation is an important step forward," said Princeton Lyman, senior fellow in African studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa. "[But] it doesn't begin to address the real development issues."

Some of the world's richest nations already have agreed to erase the debt of some of the world's poorest countries, canceling the $40 billion debt of 18 nations, including 14 in Africa.

Yet many experts inside and outside the World Bank, whose loans account for most of the debt, say that relief is only a small fraction of what is needed to extricate Africa from poverty, illiteracy, hunger and disease.

The goal of debt cancellation is to enable needy nations to spend less of their scarce resources on repayments to international banks and more on their needs.

For the 14 African nations that will benefit from G-8 debt relief, just over $1 billion a year will become available for spending at home instead of paying debt service.

By contrast, Blair has called for an immediate doubling of aid to Africa, raising the international ante to $25 billion a year. He wants that figure doubled again to $50 billion by 2015.

"If the administration does not come forward with anything bolder for Africa, they do risk looking to much of the world like the skunk at the garden party," said Gene Sperling, who was chief economic adviser to President Bill Clinton and now is working to improve public education in Africa.

Heading into the G-8 summit, European leaders are echoing Blair's call and personally imploring Bush to heed it.

`Task of a generation'

"This is a task of a generation," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Monday, standing alongside Bush in the East Room of the White House. "Every day, 25,000 people die because they don't have enough to eat or they don't have clean water to drink. This is really a shame for our generation. And you cannot accept it as a kind of natural order of things. ... There are enough resources in the world. What we need is political will and good organization."

Among the issues is establishing public education as a birthright in Africa, where 50 percent of girls never graduate from primary school.

It would cost an estimated $2.3 billion to $3 billion a year just to underwrite the 15 nations that have had Education for All plans approved by the World Bank, the G-8 nations and other interests.

That includes nations such as Ghana, which has invested heavily in education yet still cannot afford high school for most children. The West African country will use some of the money it gains from debt relief to finance educational improvements, health care and other needs, according to Ivor Agyeman-Duah, public affairs officer for Ghanaian Embassy in Washington. But that stops short of meeting all the country's needs.

Ghana owes the World Bank alone about $3.5 billion, more than any other African nation involved in the first stage of the G-8's plan.

"What this relief will do for us is to give us breathing space to use this money to invest in other areas, for health care and education," Agyeman-Duah said. "Once we are able to lay a good foundation for these areas, we then will be able to talk about economic growth."

Debt cancellation, which was approved this month by the industrialized nations' finance ministers meeting before the July summit in Scotland, will spare 14 African nations from making $1.04 billion in payments on debt service this year to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank, according to the World Bank. It will save them $1.1 billion next year.

Ultimately, 27 nations, including 23 in Africa, that the World Bank has targeted for debt cancellation could save a total of $2.5 billion a year in loan repayments.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

[G8] African debt campaigners launch major anti-poverty drive ahead of G8 meeting

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NAIROBI, June 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Africa's anti-poverty campaigners on Thursday launched a major anti-poverty campaign ever to call for total eradication of poverty in Africa.

The campaign is designated to bring to the attention of the global leaders the grim realities of poverty and other problems, notably unfair trade, HIV/AIDS and the burden of debt that continue to weigh heavily on Africa's development.

Speaking in Nairobi during the celebrations to mark the Day of the African Child, the campaigners representing over 100 organizations and coalitions working in over 26 countries in Africa, launched Africa Snaps -- a series of TV ads featuring the continent's top celebrities and civil society leaders -- and Say No 2 Poverty SMS mobile campaign in 15 African countries.

"Africa is sending out a clear message to the leaders of the world's richest countries that 2005 is the year when we strike a meaningful blow against poverty in Africa," said Andiwo Obondoh ofElimu Yetu, a debt-relief campaigners' organization.

The campaigners, who converged at a local school to celebrate Kenyan children's access to affordable and quality education underthe Universal Primary Education Program, stepped up their pressureon the world's most industrialized nations to cancel Africa's debt,and ensure predictable resources for HIV/AIDS as way of ending poverty in Africa.

"This is the year that rich countries take decisive action to increase their aid budgets, reform the rules of global trade and finally end Africa's debt burden that is destroying the livelihoods of millions," Obondoh charged.

The advertising campaign saw traditional mannequins dance on six foot stilts, brandishing giant mobile phones received the first SMS messages sent in support of the campaign.

"The SMS campaign lets people from all walks of life across Africa speak directly to their leaders and the world's richest countries about poverty," said Eve Odete from Oxfam International.

She said in the Africa Snaps advert, celebrities snap their fingers to remind people that in every three seconds, a child diesfrom extreme poverty in Africa.

All messages from the mobile phone campaign will be displayed on a website and presented to African leaders at the African UnionMinisterial Summit in Tripoli, Libya and leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland in July.

"This is an exciting opportunity for Africa artists to show solidarity with our people and join this critical campaign againstpoverty in Africa," said Youssour N'dour, one of Africa's leading musicians appearing in the Africa Snaps advertisements.

"I support the call to action against poverty a hundred percent," said John Shabala, leader of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the GrammyAward winners from South Africa.

The campaigners vowed to mobilize developing countries to take action against poverty by urging world leaders to make immediate commitment to make elimination of poverty a top priority in their agenda.

The G8 club of industrial nations is scheduled to meet in Gleneagles city, Scotland where the recommendations of the AfricanCommission which proposes doubling of aid, lifting of trade barriers on imports from Africa and the eradication of farm subsidies will be discussed. Enditem

[Make Poverty History] New wristband scandal

From No Sweat

From Red Pepper:

Following the damaging revelations last month that more than a million of the Make Poverty History wristbands have been sourced from Chinese sweatshops in 'slave labour conditions', a new scandal is about to break that goes right to the top of the star-studded anti-poverty coalition, Red Pepper can exclusively reveal.

Clothing and shoe shops across the UK, owned by the Scottish multi-millionaire business tycoon and philanthropist, Tom Hunter, who is bankrolling the Make Poverty History campaign to the tune of £1million, are selling the coalition's special white anti-poverty wristbands branded with the logos of companies campaigners accuse of having bad records on workers' rights in developing countries.

The wristbands in question, personally endorsed by Bob Geldof and Hunter, have been on sale since Monday 6 June for £2 at every store of Hunter's high- street fashion retail outlet, USC, and his shoe chain, Office. A quotation from Geldof is printed on the perspex display box in which the special edition Live8 wristbands are diplayed.

"When you buy this band you promise me you will do everything you can to get on the road to Edinburgh and join us in changing the world. This rubber band is your solemn word, you are now part of Live8, well done!"

The wristbands feature the standard Make Poverty History logo with the Live8 logo, but are also stamped with the logos of six global fashions brands including the controversial Hilfiger Denim, owned by Tommy Hilfiger Corporation.

According to Stephen Coats, Executive Director of the Chicago-based US/Labor Education in the Americas Project that monitors and supports the basic rights of workers in Latin America, Hilfiger's labour record falls short of minimum standards:

"In our experience, Tommy Hilfiger is at the bottom of the list in demonstrating refusal to accept responsibility for the way workers are treated."

Back in October 2003, the company was accused by labour rights campaigners of cutting and running from its responsibilities to workers when evidence was uncovered of labour abuses at the Tarrant blue jean factory in Ajalpan, Mexico.

The revelations have once again left Make Poverty History campaigners angry at the contamination of their high-profile symbol by its association with anti- labour companies. John Hilary, Director of Campaigns & Policy at UK development NGO, War on Want, a leading member of Make Poverty History told Red Pepper:

"This is a really worrying development for an organisation like War on Want, which campaigns for workers' rights across the world. Unless Tommy Hilfiger's record has improved significantly without our knowing, it's not the sort of company we'd want to be associated with."

Make Poverty History members are still in the dark about how Hunter's special edition Live8 wristband got the go ahead from Comic Relief who control all intellectual property rights associated with the Make Poverty History logo.

Hunter, 43, who made his estimated £678 million fortune by selling his Sports Division sportswear chain for £290 million in 1998, has offered his peronal guarantee that 'all the proceeds of these special edition live8 bands will support this stunning campaign'. He aims to sell one million wristbands before the 2 July Hyde Park extravaganza.

The other fashion brands featured on the special edition wristband are Henry Lloyd, Firetrap, Diesel, G-star and Replay. None of the companies, including Hilfiger Denim, are listed as members of the UK Ethical Trading Initiative, an alliance of companies, NGOs and trade unions cooperating to ensure that the conditions of workers producing for the UK market meet or exceed international labour standards.

This fresh controversy over the Make Poverty History wristband is bound to put the spotlight on the role of Tom Hunter and other corporate figures in the campaign. A prodigious charity giver, last year Hunter gave away a fifth of his fortune to good causes, becoming Britain's biggest charitable donor. In addition to £1 million pledged to the Make Poverty History campaign, he recently gave a further £6 million to a Comic Relief school-building programme in Africa.

Hunter's political views, however, may cause discomfort to some Make Poverty History supporters. His charity, The Hunter Foundation, is an almost evangelical force behind public-private partnerships in Scotland, and since 2001, has helped fund the Scottish Executive's Schools Enterprise Programme in which the private sector helps teach children as young as five how to set up and run their own business.

Red Pepper's Associate Editor, Stuart Hodkinson, said: 'These revelations come as little surprise. For the past six months, some of the UK's leading development and environmental NGOs have been privately expressing their unease about a campaign high on celebrity octane but low on radical politics. Red Pepper will be publishing more revelations in our July special G8 edition.'

For further information, contact Stuart Hodkinson on 07775886617 or


In addition to a critical look at the politics and personalities behind the Make Poverty History coalition, Red Pepper's forthcoming July special edition - 'G8: the New Scramble for Africa' - will feature articles by respected Ghanian political economist, Yao Graham, on the G8's neo-colonialist agenda for Africa, Lucy Michaels of Corporate Watch on the disreputable corporations lobbying behind the G8 and Commission for Africa, Melanie Jarman on why the G8 won't be solving climate change, Natasha Grzincic on Red Pepper's guide to the G8 protests, and much, much more.

Red Pepper will soon be launching a live web blog for the G8 protests. Keep watching"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

[Africa] Ghanaian Stars in Poverty Campaign

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Amandzeba Nat Brew

Creative Storm will on Thursday June 16 2005, launch special celebrity adverts at the Busy Internet in Accra featuring African and Ghanaian personalities, who will promote the campaign against poverty in Africa.

Some of the Ghanaian entertainment and public personalities featured in the adverts that will soon be on television and radio include Mac Tontoh, David Dontoh, Rex Omar, Kwesi Nti, Mzbel, Tic Tac, Bibie Brew, Sydney, Ebo Taylor, Pangy Anoff, Iso, KSM, Slim Buster, Doreen Andoh, Kwame Sefa Kayi, Diana Yanney, Kofi Bucknor, Dezmon 2Tu, Kofi Agorsor, Amandzeba Nat Brew, Israel Laryea, Blakofe and many more.

The launch will also premier the AFRICA SNAPS, a series of radio and television adverts to be broadcast in fifteen African countries and at live concerts throughout the world.

They feature musical stars such as Youssour N'dour (Senegal), Ladysmith Black Mambazo (South Africa), The Mahotella Queens, Eric Wainainai (Kenya), Seun Anikulapo Kuti (Nigeria)and many civil society leaders.

Like the click advert featuring Bono, Brad Pitt, P. Diddy and other celebrities, AFRICA SNAPS deploys the simple symbolism of the snapping fingers powerfully, to remind us all about a harrowing statistic - every three seconds, a child dies from extreme poverty in Africa.

Some of the featured artistes will perform at three special live regional concerts, including one in Accra on Saturday September 3 2005.

The launch will also kick off an innovative mobile phone SMS campaign in fifteen African countries, offering millions of people the opportunity to send text messages about poverty to the world's richest countries.

Uniquely, the collection of messages in countries such as Ghana and Kenya will be led by masqueraders walking and dancing on ten-foot stilts and brandishing giant mobile phones.

Thursday 16 June marks the Day of the African Child.

Consequently, the launch is dedicated to the memory of African children. On this day, thousands of children, wearing white bands and beads - symbols of the anti-poverty campaign will be taking part in activities throughout Africa.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

[Comment - Australia] John Falzon: Charity starts at poverty's source

NOTHING will convince the battlers - including more than 1million people assisted by the St Vincent de Paul Society every year - that they've never had it so good.

Latest figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development place Australia seventh from the bottom of 29 countries, ahead of Canada, the Slovak Republic, Japan, the US, Ireland and Mexico.

Investment in affordable housing, health, education, transport and child care is uppermost in our consideration of how Australia can move forward with a strategy involving all governments.

The Centre for Independent Studies, however, seems to be fixated on welfare. It would prefer Vinnies and other charities to stick to dishing out the soup instead of asking questions about the causes of deprivation.

Brazilian archbishop Helder Camara once said: "When I give bread to the poor I am called a saint. But when I ask why they have no bread, I am called a communist." This is what Peter Saunders (Opinion, June 10) has done.

Our research not only draws attention to the growth in income inequality but outlines various ways in which this growth could be measured.

Private income growth ignores the people who have no private income. While we have this reservation about this measure, it is hardly a moderate increase in inequality when the lowest 10 per cent get an increase of $26 and the highest 10per cent get an increase of $762.

On this measure, high incomes rose by almost 3000 per cent above the bottom incomes. On any reading, it is a mathematical illusion to suggest that the bottom 10 per cent are the winners.

The absolute figures in the Australian Bureau of Statistics survey of income and housing demonstrate that from 1994-95 to 2002-03, low incomes (real mean weekly income of $269) experienced a 12 per cent rise ($32.28); middle incomes (real mean weekly income of $449) received a 14 per cent rise ($62.86); and high incomes (real mean weekly income of $975) received a 16 per cent rise ($156).

It is no surprise therefore that the share of disposable household income of the lowest 20 per cent fell from 8.3 per cent to 7.7per cent between 1996-97 and 2002-03. In the same period, the share of the highest quintile rose from 37.1 per cent to 38.3 per cent, while the share of middle income earners held steady.

While Saunders dismisses this disparity in the growth between the low and high incomes as moderate, those who must survive the daily grind in the lowest quintile would not.

He cites an ABS comment that the movements in inequality are not statistically significant. But the ABS commentary says: "The statistically significant movements are the increase in [the ratio between the top and bottom 10 per cent of incomes] and the decline in the share of the total income going to persons with low income."

Australia has the fourth highest rate of poverty among OECD nations. We have one in seven children living in poverty. We have two million people looking for work or more work, and nine out of 10 jobs created in 10 years of economic growth paying less than $26,000.

The CIS response to the issue of income inequality is one of obfuscation and diversion. In the end, the best Saunders can do is to say that income inequality has grown but that this is nothing to worry about.

He may like to look at the St Vincent de Paul Society's history. Our founder was not St Vincent de Paul but Frederic Ozanam, a student at the Sorbonne who went on to become a professor. He adjured his confreres to "not be content with tiding the poor over the poverty crisis" but to "study the injustices [that] brought about such poverty, with the aim of a long-term improvement".

Ozanam wrote: "The issue [that] divides the people of our times is a social issue, whether society is merely to be a great exploitation to the advantage of those who are strongest, or a society in which everybody devotes their energies to the common good and above all to the protection of the weak."

Was he a communist? No. But if he were alive today and sought to work for a more just and compassionate society, I have no doubt he would also come under attack.

John Falzon is national operations manager for the St Vincent de Paul Society.

[G8] Anti-poverty campaigners plan Dublin rally

From Ireland On Line
A coalition of anti-poverty campaigners has announced plans to hold a rally in Dublin ahead of the Live 8 concerts and the G8 summit next month.

The march will take place on Thursday, June 30 and has been organised by trade unions, development organisations and other groups as part of the Make Poverty History campaign.

The event has been arranged to coincide with the Live 8 initiative designed to pressure leaders of the G8 summit to take real measures to end poverty in the developing world.

Monday, June 13, 2005

[Tony Blair] Wins Support From Putin on Africa Poverty, Climate Change

From Bloomberg

June 13 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair won backing from Russian President Vladimir Putin for plans to put poverty relief in Africa and global climate change at the center of the agenda for the Group of Eight nations.

``We fully support the ideas put forward by the U.K. and the prime minister,'' Putin said today after talks with Blair at the Russian leader's dacha outside Moscow. Blair said, ``There is a real prospect for progress on Africa and climate change'' at the G- 8 summit in Scotland on July 6-8.

Blair is seeking support for plans to double aid payments to Africa to a total of $50 billion by 2015 and to erase the debts of the world's poorest nations. He also wants industrial nations to step up commitments to cut pollution blamed for global warming.

Today's discussions also included questions about Russia's commitment to democracy and free markets after Putin's government jailed billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky on fraud charges.

``We discussed Africa and climate change and the Middle East and I am very glad to say there is a broad measure of agreement on all three issues,'' Blair said.

Putin's comments on Blair's plan for the G-8 suggest he will stick with commitments to cut pollution blamed for global warming. Russia in November ratified the Kyoto Protocol, mandating industrial nations cut emissions 5.2 percent from 1990 levels by 2012, though Putin's staff has suggested the nation will withdraw from the accord if it slows economic growth.

Economic Growth

Andrei Illarionov, an aid to Putin, said in February that Russia might renege on the treaty because it holds back economic growth. Russia produces a sixth of the pollution blamed for global warming and is the world's second-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia. Putin is attempting to diversify the nation's $533 billion a year economy.

``We discussed these matters at length,'' Putin said. ``The method formulated by the prime minister regarding climate change is very close to our own approach. Russia ratified the Kyoto Protocol and that was not an easy process.''

Putin rejected comparisons between Russia and Africa, saying his nation was committed to democracy.

``The big issue in Russia is the political changes, human rights and freedom of speech,'' Greg Austin, director of the Foreign Policy Center, a London-based policy consultant established by Blair, said before the talks. ``Africa is not the most important issue on the agenda.''

Debt Relief

Putin sought Blair's help in winning debt relief for eastern European countries formerly in the Soviet Union including Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova, now part of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

``We don't always have easy-going relations with some CIS countries,'' Putin said. ``But they want our support.''

The jailing of Khodorkovsky, the former head of OAO Yukos Oil Co., is one of the most visible signs of Putin's tightening grip on power since he won a second four-year term in March 2004.

Investors pulled $9.5 billion out of Russia last year after Putin's government prosecuted Khodorkovsky on fraud charges and slapped Yukos with a tax bill for $28 billion. BP Plc, Europe's biggest oil company, maintains an $8 billion joint venture to pump oil out of Russia, the world's second-biggest petroleum exporter behind Saudi Arabia.

Since his re-election, Putin has stepped up raids on businesses accused of tax evasion and rebels in the southern province of Chechnya. He's also planning to abolish elections for Russia's regional governors and to replace direct elections for members of Parliament with a vote on party slates. The Chechen raids culminated with the deaths of 339 people during a hostage crisis in Beslan in September.

Talks With Schroeder

Blair was to leave Moscow after the meeting with Putin to travel to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Tomorrow, he meets with French President Jacques Chirac and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. Those discussions will lay the foundation for a meeting of European Union leaders this week in Brussels.

The talks also will sketch out the agenda for the G-8 summit on July 6-8 in Scotland. Blair has said he wants to make progress fighting global warming and win backing from world leaders for a plan to combat poverty, disease and slow economic growth in Africa.

Pop musicians led by Bob Geldof and Bono, the lead singer of U2, are organizing a series of concerts in London, Berlin, Philadelphia and Paris to put pressure on G-8 leaders to act.

[Live 8] Anti-poverty show brings Pink Floyd back together

From the Edmonton Sun

LONDON -- Organizers of the London Live 8 concert said yesterday that the members of the British rock band Pink Floyd would perform at the July event for the first time in more than two decades.

Guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason, bass player Roger Waters and keyboard player Richard Wright have not performed on stage together since

The group, which achieved major success with their 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon, will join musical acts including Elton John, Madonna, Paul McCartney and Coldplay at the anti-poverty concert in Hyde Park on July 2.

"Like most people, I want to do everything I can to persuade the G-8 leaders to make huge commitments to the relief of poverty and increased aid to the Third World," Gilmour said.

"It's crazy that America gives such a paltry percentage of its GNP (gross national product) to the starving nations."

Waters, the group's founder, split with the rest of the band after a falling-out in the 1980s.

"Any squabbles Roger and the band have had in the past are so petty in this context, and if re-forming for this concert will help focus attention, then it's going to be worthwhile," Gilmour said.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

[G8] Debt deal won't rid poverty

From Finance 24
London - A G8 deal to scrap billions of dollars of debt owed by the poorest countries must be matched by huge increases in aid and an end to European and US agricultural subsidies in order to eradicate poverty, experts said on Sunday.
"Of course debt cancellation can be only part of any serious attempt to make poverty history," The Independent newspaper said.

The Group of Eight industrialised countries on Saturday struck a landmark deal to immediately write off all multilateral debt owed by 18 countries, most of them in Africa, amounting to $40bn (€33bn).

But they failed to agree to a call to double annual development aid to $100bn dollars by 2015.

While hailing the debt cancellation as a "milestone", The Observer newspaper cautioned:

"So far, the money on the table only goes part of the way."

"While the focus has been so exclusively on debt, the impact of unfair agricultural subsidies has received too little political attention.

"The Common Agricultural Policy does great damage to Africa, locking its farmers out of European markets.

"Meanwhile, excess European production is sold on world markets, depressing world food prices.

"The United States is no better... Reform the CAP -- and remove US farm subsidies -- and poverty might really become history," the paper said.

The G8 finance ministers communique released at the end of their two-day meeting called for a "timetable to eliminate all trade-distorting export subsidies in agriculture".

The debt relief decision by Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States concerns money owed to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank.

Max Lawson, debt expert for British charity Oxfam, said the cancellation was worth only $2.0bn a year at most for poor countries.

"G8 leaders need to urgently pick up the pace, respond to the calls of millions of campaigners around the world and put up an extra $50bn of aid to fund the fight against poverty."

Debt relief has assumed a higher profile as the world struggles to meet the UN's Millennium Development Goals calling for the proportion of the world's population living on less than a dollar a day to be halved by 2015.

Eighteen countries, some in Latin America, will be the first to benefit from what British finance minister Gordon Brown Saturday called "the most comprehensive statement that finance ministers have ever made on the issues of debt, development, health and poverty".

They are Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Nine other countries will become eligible for 100% debt relief totalling an extra $11bn over the next 12 to 18 months, after which 11 nations could receive similar debt cancellation of four billion dollars -- bringing the total amount of debt relief to $55bn.

Friday, June 10, 2005

[Claudia Schiffer] Makes Appeal for Poverty Aid

From ABC News

LONDON Jun 10, 2005 — Claudia Schiffer has appealed to finance ministers of the world's richest nations not to "turn a blind eye" to the plight of many developing countries.

The German supermodel posed with pictures of Treasury chief Gordon Brown and the rest of the world's leading money men on the streets of central London Thursday to show her backing for the Global Call to Action Against Poverty, spearheaded by Bob Geldof.

Finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations are meeting in London this weekend.

In the last week, supporters of the campaign have sent more than 1 million e-mails to finance ministers from the seven wealthiest nations and Russia to put pressure on them ahead of a Group of Eight summit in Scotland in July.

"I have two children, but if I was living in parts of Africa I'd have a one in five chance of dying during childbirth," Schiffer said. "And my baby would have a one in five chance of dying before their fifth birthday.

"World leaders cannot turn a blind eye to this," she said. "If the campaign works then something will at last be done about these terrible statistics. As a mother I want to do everything I can to help this campaign."

Anti-poverty campaigners say poverty kills 30,000 children each day. They are lobbying finance ministers and world leaders to cancel the debts of the developing nations, to provide more aid to poorer countries and to make trade laws fairer.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

[UN] Asia winning war against poverty but Africa getting poorer

From Press Esc

Asia has achieved unprecedented gains against poverty, but mothers and children in many parts of the world are dying from causes which are treatable and preventable, and where half of the developing world lacks access to simple sanitation, according to UN report release today.

The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005 was released ahead of the Africa-oriented Group of 8 (G8) meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland.

"The year 2005 is crucial in our work to achieve the Goals," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his foreword to the report. "Instead of setting targets, this time world leaders must decide how to achieve them."

Five years after adoption of the Millennium Declaration, where the MDGs were first enunciated, and a decade before most of the goals and targets come due, the UN General Assembly will review progress on all areas of the Millennium Declaration at a summit to be held in September.

The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen off by 130 million worldwide since 1990, according to the report, even with overall population growth of more than 800 million in the developing regions since then.

This reduction of humanity's ancient enemy, on an order of magnitude dwarfing that of any other period in history, was led by countries of Eastern, South Eastern and Southern Asia, where extreme poverty was cut back by more than 230 million since 1990, with the Latin American-Caribbean region also contributing.

But these improvements were offset by increases in the number of the extreme poor in other areas, notably sub-Saharan Africa, from 227 million in 1990 to 313 million in 2001.

In all, an estimated one billion people-one in five people in the developing world-still live below the extreme poverty line of a dollar a day in income (1993 US dollars).

For the very poor in sub-Saharan Africa, the average income actually fell, from 62 cents a day in 1990 to 60 cents in 2001.

Still the UN optimistically claims that the decline of the extreme poor, from 28 per cent of the developing world population in 1990 to 21 per cent in 2001, means that the target of cutting the proportion of the very poor by half is expected to be met globally before the target year 2015, if post-1990 trends persist.

Five years after adoption of the Millennium Declaration, where the MDGs were first enunciated, and a decade before most of the goals and targets come due, the UN General Assembly will review progress on all areas of the Millennium Declaration at a summit to be held in September.

The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen off by 130 million worldwide since 1990, according to the report, even with overall population growth of more than 800 million in the developing regions since then.

This reduction of humanity's ancient enemy, on an order of magnitude dwarfing that of any other period in history, was led by countries of Eastern, South Eastern and Southern Asia, where extreme poverty was cut back by more than 230 million since 1990, with the Latin American-Caribbean region also contributing.

But these improvements were offset by increases in the number of the extreme poor in other areas, notably sub-Saharan Africa, from 227 million in 1990 to 313 million in 2001.

In all, an estimated one billion people-one in five people in the developing world-still live below the extreme poverty line of a dollar a day in income (1993 US dollars).

For the very poor in sub-Saharan Africa, the average income actually fell, from 62 cents a day in 1990 to 60 cents in 2001.

Still the UN optimistically claims that the decline of the extreme poor, from 28 per cent of the developing world population in 1990 to 21 per cent in 2001, means that the target of cutting the proportion of the very poor by half is expected to be met globally before the target year 2015, if post-1990 trends persist.

Link to report

[Comment] Bush out of touch on global poverty

From the Toronto Star
President George Bush kept a remarkably straight face Tuesday when he strode to the microphones with Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, and told the world that the United States will now get around to spending $674 million (U.S.) in emergency aid that Congress had already approved for needy countries.

That's it.

Not a penny more to buy treated mosquito nets to help save the thousands of children in Sierra Leone who die every year of preventable malaria. Nothing more to train and pay teachers so 11-year-old girls in Kenya may go to school. And not a cent more to help Ghana develop the kind of programs it needs to get legions of young boys off the streets.

Blair, who will be the host when the G-8, the club of eight leading economic powers, holds its annual meeting next month, is trying to line up pledges to double overall aid for Africa over the next 10 years. That extra $25 billion a year would do all those things, and much more, to raise the continent from dire poverty. Before getting to Washington, Blair had done very well, securing pledges of large increases from European Union members.

According to a poll, most Americans believe that the United States spends 24 per cent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 per cent. As Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist in charge of the United Nations' Millennium Development Project, put it so well, the notion that there is a flood of American aid going to Africa "is one of our great national myths."

The United States currently gives just 0.16 per cent of its national income to help poor countries, despite signing the United Nations declaration three years ago in which rich countries agreed to increase their aid to 0.7 per cent by 2015. Since then, Britain, France and Germany have all announced plans for how to get to 0.7 per cent; America has not. The piddling amount Bush announced Tuesday is not even 0.007 per cent.

What is 0.7 per cent of the American economy? About $80 billion. That is about the amount the Senate just approved for additional military spending, mostly in Iraq. It's not remotely close to the $140 billion corporate tax cut last year.

This should not be the image Bush wants to project around a world that is watching American actions on this issue intently. At a time when rich countries are mounting a noble and worthy effort to make poverty history, the Bush administration is showing itself to be completely out of touch by offering such a miserly drop in the bucket. It's no surprise that Bush's offer was greeted with scorn in television broadcasts and newspaper headlines around the world. "Bush Opposes U.K. Africa Debt Plan," blared the headline on the AllAfrica news service, based in Johannesburg. "Blair's Gambit: Shame Bush Into Paying," chimed in the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia.

The American people have a great heart. President Bush needs to stop concealing it.

This is an edited version of an editorial that appeared in the New York Times.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

[Ghana] Sports to be included in poverty reduction strategy - Amoah

From Ghana Web
Accra, June 8, GNA - The Ministry of Education and Sports is to submit proposals to the National Development Planning Commission for sports to be included in the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy as a tool for development. The ministry said the impact of sports particularly on education, the economy, health and the environment was so enormous such that the aim of reducing poverty would be incomplete without including sports.

Mr O. B. Amoah, a Deputy Minister of Education and Sports, was speaking to GNA Sports on his return from New York where he represented the Ministry at this year's International Year of Sport and Physical Education by the United Nations General Assembly. The event, which marked 60 years of the founding of the UN at the end of the Second World War, was to use sports as a tool to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Among the eight-point Millennium Development Goals is to use sports to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empowerment and to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. Mr Amoah said the Ministry's proposal, which is in line with the Millennium Development Goals, would examine the multiplier effects of sport on the economy, especially in job creation, the issue of dependency ratio and self-reliance.

He said if properly managed, sports could become one, if not the fastest, avenue of wealth creation thereby reducing poverty in the country. The minister cited the hosting of the 2008 African Cup of Nations and how, if well coordinated, could create enormous jobs for the youth and wealth for every facet of the economy.

Blair seeks to bring Bush on board poverty agenda

From ABC Australia and reporter John Shovelan

ELEANOR HALL: The leaders of two of the world's wealthiest countries met in Washington today to try to work out what to do about the poorest continent on the planet – Africa.

But while a lot of money has been promised, the proposal put forward today by US President George W. Bush has not matched up to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's ambitions.

As host of the next G8 summit, Mr Blair has made eliminating African poverty a key goal for the developed world, and he met US President George W. Bush at the White House to try to bring him on board.

Prime Minister Blair also challenged the Bush administration's position on global warming. But in his meeting today he failed to convince the US President on his formula for either, as John Shovelan reports.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Today was Washington in what's part of an international lobbying blitz by the British Prime Minister ahead of next month's G8 summit. He's already had talks with Italian Prime Minister and will visit the leaders of France, Germany and Russia before the summit in Gleneagles Scotland.

Prime Minister Blair is seeking a doubling of international aid for Africa, in an effort to get beyond emergency relief in favour of a more comprehensive, long-term help for the continent's problems.

TONY BLAIR: I think there is a real and common desire to help that troubled continent come out of the poverty and deprivation that so many millions of its people suffer. In a situation where literally thousands of children die from preventable diseases every day, it's our duty to act, and we will.

JOHN SHOVELAN: But President Bush offered no commitment to double aid. His administration announced a food aid package of about US $850 million – money which comes from an existing allocation.

REPORTER: Prime Minister Blair has been pushing for wealthy nations to double aid to Africa. With American aid levels among the lowest in the G8 as a proportion of national income, and the problems on the continent so dire, why isn't doubling US aid a good idea?

GEORGE BUSH: Well, first as I said in my statement, we tripled aid to Africa. Africa is an important part of my foreign policy. I remember when I first talked to Condy when I was trying to convince her to become the National Security Advisor, she said are you going to pay attention to the continent of Africa? I said, you bet. And I fulfilled that commitment.

In terms of whether or not the formula that you commented upon are the right way to analyse the United States commitment – I don't think it is. We've got a significant HIV-AIDS initiative that we're undertaking. Our country is taking the lead in Africa and we'll stay there. It's the right thing to do, it's important to help Africa get on her feet.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The left leaning Centre for American Progress issued a statement saying "when it comes to delivering desperately needed aid to Africa, President Bush has refused to meet Blair part-way, let alone halfway. His offer amounts to a phantom that will do nothing to reverse the trend towards poverty in Africa."

Both leaders have reached a deal on debt relief for poor countries but have to seek agreement from the other G8 creditors before it can be implemented.

TONY BLAIR: I think in relation to the debt cancellation, yes, I think we're well on the way to agreement on that.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Blair hails 'common cause' with US

From This Is London

Tony Blair has emerged from talks with President George Bush hailing a "real and common desire" to tackle African poverty.

The Prime Minister said the international community would not fail in its duty to help lift millions of people out of poverty.

On Africa I think there is a real and common desire to help that troubled continent come out of the poverty and deprivation which so many millions of its people suffer, in a situation where literally thousands of children die from preventable diseases every day, it is our duty to act and we will," he said.

Mr Blair has promised to make tackling African poverty one of the twin pillars of his presidency of the G8 group of rich nations.

He said it was vital to increase aid to the continent. But he said money alone was not enough.

He said it must be tied to debt relief, fairer trade and tackling diseases such as HIV/Aids and malaria.

And he said it must not be a "something for nothing deal".

"We also need to make sure there is a commitment on the part of the African leadership to proper governance, to action against corruption, to making sure the aid and the resources we are prepared to commit actually go to the people that need it and do the job it is supposed to do."

Monday, June 06, 2005

Pledges action on African poverty

Link to this article
Canada and other G8 members are vowing to maintain their focus on African poverty and other external issues during this week's summit for finance ministers, even though almost all of the member states are suffering economic woes.

Britain, which as president this year largely controls the G8 agenda, has particularly emphasized the need to lift Africa out of its doldrums. But the Group of Eight, whose members are among the world's leading industrialized countries, still appears a long way from agreeing on how to accomplish that goal.

"This is not a time for timidity nor a time to fear reaching too high," British Finance Minister Gordon Brown said Friday in Edinburgh.

In Ottawa, a spokesman for Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said there's little desire by any of the G8 countries to step away from Africa's issues without a strong plan in place. "We're pretty firm where we're at," Pat Breton said.

One of Canada's leading economists said G8 leaders are often eager to focus on external issues because those don't require them to make politically difficult changes within their own borders.

"Many of the developed economies are in a pretty sick condition," said Don Drummond, chief economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank. "That's what they should focus on."

Mr. Drummond said Japan and the United States -- the Group of Eight's two largest economies -- face huge fiscal deficits, while European G8 members, particularly France and Germany, struggle with persistent high unemployment and low growth.

Government of Niger declares emergency - World Vision signs WFP contract

from World Vision and writer Karen Homer

World Vision signed a contract with the World Food Programme (WFP) on May 26 to distribute food in Niger. This timely agreement was finalized one day before the Government officially declared an emergency on May 27, appealing for international aid to help feed 3.6 million Nigeriens who are in critical need, including 800,000 children under five.

Recent nutrition surveys conducted by World Vision and other agencies in the districts of Maradi and Zinder show that child malnutrition rates are alarmingly high. Some 13.4 percent of the children are acutely malnourished and 2.5 percent severely malnourished - rates that are normally associated with war-torn countries.

“Children in our project communities desperately need this food,” said Olivier Saugy, Operations Director for World Vision Niger.

Saugy said the 1,480 tons of WFP food assigned to World Vision will be used for complementary feeding of malnourished children, “food for work” agro-forestry programs and to stock 75 cereal banks. World Vision supports 23,000 children in Niger, who are sponsored by donors in Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, U.K., and the U.S. A reported 400,000 people in all 11 of World Vision’s rural program areas are affected.

World Vision and Catholic Relief Services were both given food contracts by WFP, which supplied a total of 10,000 metric tons of food. The 1,480 tons received by World Vision is valued at US$853,573 (including food and distribution costs).

An estimated 223,487 metric tons of food are needed in Niger after drought and locust swarms destroyed most of the last year’s harvest and almost 40 percent of livestock fodder. The Government has provided 42,000 tons of cereals at below-market prices. However, prices for cereals like millet and sorghum have soared in recent weeks. Villagers can’t afford to buy the little food that is available in the market.

[United Kingdom] Millions of pensioners living below poverty line

from the Scotsman

MILLIONS of pensioners are malnourished, living below the poverty line and unable to afford to heat their homes in winter, research showed today.

The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) said an estimated 2.2 million older people, the equivalent of one in five pensioners, currently lived below the poverty line, the same number as in 1997.

At the same time, it said about 1.5 million pensioners were malnourished or at serious risk of malnourishment, while another 1.5 million said their house was too cold in winter.

The Age Audit, which was based on Government statistics and major pieces of research into the lives of elderly people, also found that an estimated 22,000 people died as a result of the cold last year.

The group said about five million pensioners suffered from a long-term illness that restricted their daily life, while 7.2 million did not have access to free public transport.

But at the same time it estimated that retired people actually saved the taxpayer £24 billion a year through providing unpaid social care and childcare, and through doing voluntary work.

Friday, June 03, 2005

From All
[Opinion] Marching in Europe Will Not End African Poverty
June 2, 2005

DR Tajudeen

- The Western mindset infantalises Africans and can't trust them to help themselves!

Sir Bob (aka Saint Bob) Geldof on Tuesday ended speculation about staging a repeat of his 1985 Live Aid concert that raised global awareness about famine in Africa. The successful re-release of the record Do they Know its Christmas time? last Christmas, 20 years after the original one fuelled speculations that Live Aid could be repeated this year too.

Further pressures for this restaging had to do with the prominent role Geldof played in instigating Blair to set up his Commission for Africa and committing him to make Africa a centre piece of British Chairmanship of both the EU and the G8 from next month. A number of campaigns by NGOs and development lobbyists in the UK culminating in the yearlong 'Make Poverty History' campaign are also contributing to shaping the British agenda for the British chairmanship. The symbolism and propaganda value of these coincidences were just overwhelming.

The NGO world is more and more media-driven therefore packaging misery and targeting critical national and global events have become necessary tool kits for massive fundraising. It was difficult to see how Geldof could 'resist the pressure for another show'. Despite initial declarations to the contrary, Tuesday's announcement showed how Bob, despite being the global face of this humanitarian effort, does not have all the aces.

The campaign has been so successful that even if he refused to cooperate they would have manufactured another media saint to front it. It has become a global brand for sleek missionary activity on Africa. The compromise show that will still be regarded by many as Live Aid is called, Live 8. Despite the fact that it will bring together all the big names in Western music the concert will not be just about music and charity. Geldof and his colleagues both from two decades' experience of doing charity and criticisms of opponents have come to accept that charity (while still important) is not the way forward for helping Africa.

It is a very important shift. So Live 8 will focus on the G8 leaders' meeting the same week as the concert is being held in London and other four Western cities. The organisers hope that they will be able to mobilise a million protesters to converge on Edinburgh to demand an end to poverty in Africa, fair trade, debt write-off and more aid for Africa. Similar protests are supposed to take place simultaneously in all G8 countries.

As one of those people critical of aid-addicted Africans and their Western aid pushers, what can I possibly have against the proposed concert and the shift to direct action?

I welcome the shift and salute the courage of those building this solidarity movement for Africa. In particular, shifting the debate away from aid may help to recover some of the loss of self-respect and attacks on the dignity of Africans consequent to constant negative images of starving Africa in order to extract Western sympathy.

It may help to stop seeing Africa and Africans as victims but agents of our own fortunes and misfortunes in collusion with others. More importantly, the shift should help focus on the structural linkages between our mass poverty and the riches of the West.

So pervasive has been the humanitarian disaster ideology about Africa that many westerners do not know that their computers, mobile phones, jewellery, motor cars, museums and many of their day-to-day comfort items began life in Africa as precious metals and raw materials. While all these changes are both desirable and necessary, I cannot help being troubled by the processes.

Even good things can be done in the wrong ways. How is it defensible that 20 years after Live Aid and all the changes that Africa and the rest of the world have witnessed these activities are still being planned and executed without full participation of Africans? It is like trying to shave someone's head in their absence! Who are the big or small African artistes and musicians involved in this concert?

Did they ask Hugh Masekela and he was too tired? Did Miriam Makeba say she was too busy? Is Fela Kuti unable to break an engagement? Where is Baba Maal? What about Yousou Ndor? What of Yvonne Chaka Chaka or Angelica Kidjo? Where are the Congolese musicians? We can go on and on. Even the wider anti- poverty campaigns essentially use Africans as background to be wheeled on and off as the propaganda demands. Could there not have been a symbolic African venue?

Surely, even if many African countries do not have the facilities South Africa does have the infrastructure to broadcast to the whole world? These omissions are not because of ignorance but the result of a mindset that infantilises Africans and cannot trust the Africans to do anything for themselves. Things have to be done for us.

A more fundamental challenge for reversing this 'whiteman's burden' ideology is for us to do things for ourselves and invite those we like instead of wanting to be invited by others to seek solutions to our problems.

No number of marches in Europe and global concerts for Africa will end poverty in Africa if Africans are not marching in their millions demanding and enforcing pro-poor and pro- people policies and governance from their own governments and institutions.

We cannot be spectators in our own affairs.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

[Live 8] World stars mass for end-poverty concert

Link to this article
AEST Thu Jun 2 2005

AP - There will be at least five dozen performers, from Bono to 50 Cent, in five venues across the world, from Rome's Circus Maximus to the streets of Philadelphia.

All will unite behind one simple message for world leaders: end poverty in Africa.

Twenty years after he organised the landmark Live Aid concerts, Bob Geldof announced plans for the Live 8 concerts. They will take place on July 2, just days before leaders of the world's richest countries, the G8, meet in Britain.

"We don't want people's money. We want them," Geldof said.

Musicians including Madonna, Paul McCartney, U2, Bon Jovi, Brian Wilson, Crosby Stills & Nash, Coldplay, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Jay-Z will grace stages in London, Philadelphia, Berlin, Paris and Rome.

The 1985 Live Aid concerts, held in London and Philadelphia on the same day, sold out both venues, drew a TV audience of millions around the globe and raised $US40 million ($A53.02 million) for poverty relief in Africa.

Since then, Geldof said, Africa has only become poorer.

"Twenty years on, it strikes me as being morally repulsive and intellectually absurd that people die of want in a world of surplus," Geldof said. "This is to finally, as much as we can, put a stop to that."

Geldof said he had resisted any recreation of Live Aid, but relented to pressure from U2's Bono and others: "It seemed to me that we could gather again, but this time not for charity but for political justice."

The aim of the concerts was to create attention and "political heat" ahead of the G8 meeting to persuade the leaders to agree to cancel Africa's unpayable debts, double aid for the continent and make trade fair, Geldof said.

Africa is expected to be high on the agenda of the meeting of the group of eight wealthy nations - which includes Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Russia, Canada, Italy and Japan. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he wants rich nations to write off the debts owed by the world's poorest countries and to double international aid, initiatives the White House has ruled out.

"We obviously welcome any campaign which raises awareness of the need for action in Africa," a spokesman at Blair's office said.

"The prime minister is obviously working very hard to secure a comprehensive outcome for Africa at the G8 summit."

The concerts will be free. Musicians will donate their services, and other costs will be met by corporate sponsors.

Venues for the July 2 events include London's Hyde Park, a location near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Circus Maximus in Rome and along Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Geldof said negotiations for the Paris venue continued.

Geldof, who enjoyed modest success fronting the Irish punk band the Boomtown Rats but found fame through the Live Aid appeal, said organisers had "scrambled like crazy to put this together."

Elton John, who will perform at the London concert, sat alongside Geldof at the news conference and said he was happy to be part of an event that was drawing the "creme de la creme."

"When the Live Aid concert happened 20 years ago I was pretty much a self-obsessed drug addict and, although I was really pleased to be part of a great day, I really wasn't adult enough or mature enough to realise the full consequences of what we were doing," John said. "Now I'm fully aware of what's going on and seeing the injustices going on."

Geldof said after the concerts, people would be encouraged to get to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he expects a million people to gather for a mass protest as the leaders meet in nearby Gleneagles.

He also said he had invited Pope Benedict XVI to join the Edinburgh gathering. "I think he should show up. I think it should be his first gig," Geldof said.

Fans will enter a lottery by cell phone text message to obtain a ticket.

Those performing in London for Live 8 include McCartney, John, Mariah Carey, Coldplay, Dido, Keane, Annie Lennox, Madonna, Muse, the Scissor Sisters, Joss Stone, Stereophonics, Sting, Snoop Dogg, Robbie Williams, U2 and REM.

In Philadelphia, acts performing will include Will Smith, the Dave Matthews Band, Bon Jovi, 50 Cent, P Diddy and Jay-Z as well as Wonder and Australian raised country singer Keith Urban.

Among artists scheduled for Berlin: a-ha, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Lauryn Hill and Wilson. The concert in Rome will feature Faith Hill and Duran Duran among others. And in Paris, Jamiroquai, Craig David, Youssou N'Dour and Yannick Noah will be among those taking part.